Tell me if this scene is familiar to you. You walk in the house and your partner is cooking dinner, watching TV or at their computer. You say, “Hey, I’m home.” They don’t stop what they’re doing or even look up, but yell out, “How was your day?” You yell back “good” or “fine” while you go change out of your work clothes or put away the groceries.

Yup. Questions like “How was your day?” or “What did you do today?” or “How’re you feeling?” are ruining your relationship. These are bad, useless questions and are basically a dismissal. You’re acknowledging the other person but letting them know you don’t really have much effort to put into a conversation with them. Let’s face it, you already know the answer you’re going to get to any of these questions: “Fine,” “Nothing” or “Good.”

These questions suck because they’re just polite space fillers. Instead of asking your partner how his/her day was, ask questions like:

  • “If I could say one thing right now that would make tonight great, what would it be?”
  • “What was the best thing that happened today?”
  • “What was your least favorite part of the day?”
  • “What interesting thing happened today?”
  • “If you had to pick one feeling for the day other than good or fine, what would it be?”
  • “What intention are you setting for tomorrow?”
  • “What do you want to accomplish tomorrow that you didn’t get to today?”
  • “Is there anything I can help with?”
  • “What’s one thing you could do to make your situation better with your boss/coworker?”

Basically, you want to ask anything that will give you an answer other than “good,” “nothing” or “fine.” Asking good questions (we psychologist types call these “open-ended questions”) gets people out of autopilot and into really thinking and communicating. 

Here’s a little practice assignment: Focus on asking questions all day tomorrow or sometime soon. I’m not saying you can never make a statement but, for 24 hours, try to ask as many “good” questions as you can. Notice how much you’re inclined to lecture or nag your partner, friends, coworkers or kids. It’s an amazing exercise if you give it a chance. Notice the change in your conversations when you ask questions instead of making statements. Don’t forget to ask yourself questions during that internal dialogue you have in your head all day too. Instead of berating yourself for not getting to the gym, ask yourself a question about it. “What stopped me from getting to the gym today? What could I do differently tomorrow so I don’t sabotage myself?”

Asking useless questions means you’re missing the opportunity to connect with your partner. Too many missed opportunities add up to relationships with two people living separate lives instead of as true partners. Don’t miss out: start asking healthy questions today.

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